Category Archives: Wisdom

What is Collective Trauma?

alex atkins bookshelf cultureAccording to the American Psychological Association, trauma is defined as “the emotional response someone has to an extremely negative event. While trauma is a normal reaction to a horrible event, the effects can be so severe that they interfere with an individual’s ability to live a normal life. In a case such as this, help may be needed to treat the stress and dysfunction caused by the traumatic event and to restore the individual to a state of emotional well-being.” Collective trauma is when a certain distressing event, such as an environmental catastrophe, world war, genocide, terrorist attack, mass shootings, financial crisis, mass job losses, oppression, poverty, disease, or political crisis, has a traumatic psychological effect on a large group of people, a community, or an entire country or countries. The most frequently cited collective traumas include: WW I and WW II, The Holocaust, Slavery in America, and the 9-11 terrorist attacks. The concept of collective trauma was developed by French sociologist Emile Durkheim. Durkheim noted that values, rituals, and norms were the bonds that held society together — they provided solidarity, social cohesion. A collective trauma severs these bonds, destroys the social order, causes people to feel disoriented and disconnected, evokes a collective feeling, and can alter a society’s culture and mass actions. Sociologist Kai Erikson, author of Everything in Its Path (about the devastating Buffalo Creek flood of 1972), described how survivors were in a permanent state of shock, and struggled to find meaning and purpose in life. Sousan Abadian, a former fellow at the MIT Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformational Studies, notes that “collective trauma [is] at the level of culture — that culture has been damaged, meaning institutions, cultural practices, values, and beliefs.” Psychologist Jack Saul, author of Collective Trauma, Collective Healing, adds “[Some] of the features we often associate with collective traumas [are]: social rupturing and a profound sense of distress, the challenging of long-held assumptions about the world and national identity, a constricted public narrative, and a process of scapegoating and dehumanization.” Sound familiar?

In his thought-provoking article for The New York Times, “Are Americans Experiencing Collective Trauma?”, sociologist Neil Gross argues that the election of 2016 is a classic example of a collective trauma. Gross writes: “[The 2016] presidential election has collective trauma written all over it…. Mr. Trump’s victory signals that that world, with the assurances it offered that there were some lines those seeking power wouldn’t cross (or that the American electorate wouldn’t let them cross), is no longer. Rightly or wrongly, memories have been activated of historical traumas linked with anti-democratic politics, such as the emergence of fascism in interwar Europe and the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s.” Tulane psychology professor Charles Figley also believes that the 2016 election is a collective trauma: “First and foremost it’s on everyone’s mind and it’s discussed frequently. There are signs and symbols associated with it. Mentioning a particular slogan or singing a particular song simply connects people to the phenomenon and reminds everyone they are in the same boat.” And unfortunately, Figley observes, there is a nasty side effect: racism and xenophobia; he elaborates: “People tend to separate from people that are different from them, connecting with people that are like them, and share their concerns, and vilify the opposition.” Yale sociologist Ronald Eyerman, who co-edited Narrating Trauma: On the Impact of Collective Suffering, believes that the recent presidential election felt less like losing a election, and more like the assassination of a revered leader, like John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, or Harvey Milk. Eyerman explains, “[Milk’s] death was first collectively mourned in a massive march through the streets of San Francisco… The [killer’s manslaughter] verdict was interpreted by many in the collective, the San Francisco gay community, as a betrayal, a failure of American institutions, in this case the courts, the police and the justice system as a whole to do justice to an aggrieved group. This betrayal and loss of faith in American institutions threatened the very foundations of collective identity.”

Is there a path of healing for those communities that suffer from collective trauma? Most experts agree that collective trauma will remain chronic and reoccur if social causes are not properly addressed and if perpetrators are not held accountable for their actions. With respect to historical collective trauma, mental health experts typically identify four required steps for healing: confronting trauma, understanding the trauma, releasing the pain, and transcendence. Joy DeGruy, author of Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing, emphasizes the importance revisiting and studying the initial behavior/event rather as opposed to denying that it ever occurred. Armand Volkas, a psychotherapist and child of Holocaust survivors, explores the potential perpetrator in all of us, as a way of humanizing the enemy, and bringing people together. Figley believes that people eventually figure out a way out of collective trauma: “When a community collectively experiences a trauma, people ask each other questions about what happened and why it happened, who caused it whether it will happen again. Over a period of time there is an accommodation to loss, stock-taking, and gradual acceptance, and then creating new things in the wake of these changes that you didn’t want. People figure out what to do to feel safe again — physically or psychologically.”

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Read related posts: The Thirteen Commandments
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel
In the Face of Suffering One Has No Right to Turn Away

For further reading: www.nytimes.com/2016/12/16/opinion/sunday/are-americans-experiencing-collective-trauma.html
http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/free-yourself-from-the-past
https://qz.com/889753/trump-inauguration-collective-trauma/

http://www.vanityfair.com/news.2018/02/monica-lewinsky-in-the-age-of-metoo


The Deepest Joys Are The Simple Ones Shared with Family

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomIn the obituary of George H. W. Bush, The Washington Post provided this insight into the private life of the 41st President of the United States: “In 1988, Mr. Bush gave a list of the qualities he most cherished to Peggy Noonan, who wrote his speech accepting that year’s Republican presidential nomination. They were: ‘family, kids, grandkids, love, decency, honor, pride, tolerance, hope, kindness, loyalty, freedom, caring, heart, faith, service to country, fair (fair play), strength, healing, excellence. Mr. Bush viewed his family as part of his legacy. He was intensely proud of the sons who followed him into public service.”

Coincidentally, just a few days ago I came across rather serendipitously touching testimony to old age and family by Dick Thornburgh, former governor of Pennsylvania who served as the Attorney General of the United States under President Bush. His words are a gentle reminder, that as George H. W. Bush so firmly believed, family is the most important thing in life and the memories of time spent with family are life’s greatest treasure — but sometimes it takes advancing age to truly appreciate that truism:

“When I was growing up, the thought of someone aged seventy was coupled with images of incapacity and irrelevance. Having reached that age myself this year, I realize how inaccurate those im­ages were. To be sure, we all, sooner or later, reach an age when we begin to slow down. But as the years advance, I find myself more appreciative of everyday joys, especially the companionship of those I love. In an ironic way, my capacity for true enjoyment seems to have deepened with age. The blessings of family and loved ones have al­ways been particularly enriching. Memories of times spent with my wife, children, and grandchildren are among my most valued treasures. Simple events and conversations of the past increase in value as I rec­ollect them in later years. How often my beloved wife of thirty-nine years and I reminisce about the exciting and challenging opportunities we have been granted. And how often we thank God for giving us each other to provide the balance and inspiration necessary to persevere when the going gets tough. 

Four fine sons, two superb daughters-in-law, and now six grandchildren have been a special blessing to us. They assure that life is never dull. Our vicar­ious participations in their lives let us share in the fulfillment of every passing grade, each goal scored or starring role, each friendship cemented, and a suc­cession of job opportunities and residential acquisi­tions and improvements. Our congratulations-and commiserations over inevitable disappointments­ have always been graciously received. 

Such bonds are a two-way street. For my seventi­eth birthday, for example, my oldest son collected a list of “Greatest Hits: 70+ Memories of My Dad,” which he shared with all of us. Even the most dimly remembered of these events sprang to vivid reality with only a little prompting. Some were truly hilari­ous. And all contributed to a tapestry of remem­brance more valuable than any tangible gift could be…

One of our sons has a disability; he has mental retardation. In many ways, he has contributed the most to my comprehension of the good that can evolve from nearly every situation. He possesses a kind of quiet dignity that, despite his limitations, serves as an inspiration to all who know him. And his own values are very much in order. Recently, when visiting with us, he and I went to the Washington zoo. We saw all the animals and laughed to­gether at the antics of many of them. At the end of the excursion, I asked him what he had liked best about our experience, expecting a reply that took into account the unique characteristics of one or more of the animals we had seen. Instead, he responded, quite simply: “Being with you.”

What a precious gift God has given us in life. We all journey together and are sustained and strengthed by wonderful experiences such as these. In the final analysis, the deepest joys are indeed the simple ones and, as they accumulate over the years, we come to look forward to, rather than fear, the next successive milestone. May it ever be so!”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Wisdom on an Immigrant Father
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
What Valuable Lesson Has Life Taught You?

For further reading: The Older the Fiddle, the Better the Tune: The Joys of Reaching a Certain Age by Willard Scott
http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/obituaries/george-hw-bush-41st-president-of-the-united-states-dies-at-94/2018/11/30/42fa2ea2-61e2-11e8-99d2-0d678ec08c2f_story.html?utm_term=.0f8b73b854cb


The Wisdom of Bill Moyers

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomBill Moyers (born 1934) is a respected journalist and political commentator. He served President Lyndon Johnson as White House Press Secretary in the 1960s. After his work at the White House, he produced many award-winning documentaries and news journal programs for PBS, including Bill Moyers Journal; The Power of Myth; The Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis; In Search of the Constitution; A World of Ideas; Now with Bill Moyers; Faith and Reason; and Moyers on America. Moyer has received many awards: more than 30 Emmy Awards, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, a lifetime Peabody Award, induction into the Television Hall of Fame, and the 2006 Lifetime Emmy Award. In bestowing the last award, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences noted: “Bill Moyers has devoted his lifetime to the exploration of the major issues and ideas of our time and our country, giving television viewers an informed perspective on political and societal concerns.” His observations and commentaries are as relevant today, particularly in a Trumpian world, as they were a decade ago (and earlier):

“The corporate right and the political right declared class war on working people a quarter of a century ago and they’ve won. The rich are getting richer, which arguably wouldn’t matter if the rising tide lifted all boats. But the inequality gap is the widest it’s been since 1929; the middle class is besieged and the working poor are barely keeping their heads above water. The corporate and governing elites are helping themselves to the spoils of victory — politics, when all is said and done, comes down to who gets what and who pays for it — while the public is distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes.”

“[The public is] distracted by the media circus and news has been neutered or politicized for partisan purposes. [Consider] the paradox of Rush Limbaugh, ensconced in a Palm Beach mansion massaging the resentments across the country of white-knuckled wage earners, who are barely making ends meet in no small part because of the corporate and ideological forces for whom Rush has been a hero… As Eric Alterman reports in his recent book [What Liberal Media? The Truth About Bias and the News, 2003]… part of the red-meat strategy is to attack mainstream media relentlessly, knowing that if the press is effectively intimidated, either by the accusation of liberal bias or by a reporter’s own mistaken belief in the charge’s validity, the institutions that conservatives revere — corporate America, the military, organized religion, and their own ideological bastions of influence — will be able to escape scrutiny and increase their influence over American public life with relatively no challenge.”

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than ensuring a diverse, independent and free media. Free Press is at the heart of that struggle.”

“For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.”

“What’s right and good doesn’t come naturally. You have to stand up and fight for it — as if the cause depends on you, because it does.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience-there and then gone.”

“Television can stir emotions, but it doesn’t invite reflection as much as the printed page.”

“We see more and more of our Presidents and know less and less about what they do.”

“This is the first time in my 32 years in public broadcasting that PBS has ordered up programs for ideological instead of journalistic reasons.”

“There are honest journalists like there are honest politicians — they stay bought.”

“The printed page conveys information and commitment, and requires active involvement. Television conveys emotion and experience, and it’s very limited in what it can do logically. It’s an existential experience — there and then gone.”

“Secrecy is the freedom tyrants dream of.”

“I work for him despite his faults and he lets me work for him despite my deficiencies.”

“Hyperbole was to Lyndon Johnson what oxygen is to life.”

“Democracy may not prove in the long run to be as efficient as other forms of government, but it has one saving grace: it allows us to know and say that it isn’t.”

“Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous.”

“As a student I learned from wonderful teachers and ever since then I’ve thought everyone is a teacher.”

“Democracy belongs to those who exercise it.”

“We don’t care really about children as a society and television reflects that indifference to children as human beings.”

“Our very lives depend on the ethics of strangers, and most of us are always strangers to other people.”

“When I learn something new – and it happens every day – I feel a little more at home in this universe, a little more comfortable in the nest.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

For further reading: A Republic, If You Can Keep It
What is the Declaration of Independence Worth?
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: https://practicaltheory.org/blog/2003/11/02/bill-moyers-interview/


Plato’s Warning: If You Don’t Vote, You Will be Governed by Idiots

alex atkins bookshelf quotationsPlato (427-347 BC) is considered one of the most brilliant and influential philosophers in history. Plato (his given name was Aristocles; Plato is his nickname, from platos, meaning “broad” since he had a broad physique and forehead.) was a student of Socrates and took what he learned to found the influential Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the West. Amidst a beautiful grove of olive trees, Plato taught some very fortunate and intelligent students (including Aristotle who later founded his own academy) philosophy, mathematics, politics, and astronomy. His most famous and influential work, that is still widely studied in universities, is the Republic, where Plato cover a broad (pun intended) range of significant topics: philosophy, ethics, moral psychology, epistemology, metaphysics, and of course, political philosophy. It is this last topic that concerns us today as we examine his views on political participation.

The quote that serves as the title of this post is actually a tongue-in-cheek variation (underscoring the importance of voting in a critical election) of the quote most often attributed to Plato, ubiquitous on the internet: “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics, is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.” There are many other variants of this famous quotation. Among them is this one crafted by poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson that appears in Society and Solitude (1870): “Plato says that the punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is, to live under the government of worse men.”

The source of all these variants is The Republic, (Book 1, 346-347), where Plato makes the point that if good, honorable, intelligent men do not to wish to serve in government, then they will be punished by being ruled by those who are bad, dishonorable, and dumb. The actual sentence is: But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. For those who are curious to partake of the entire discussion of the issue among Socrates (Plato, of course, is speaking through Socrates), Glaucon (Plato’s older brother), and Thrasymachus (a sophist who believes essentially that it does not pay to be just), here is the relevant passage from The Republic

“Then, Thrasymachus, is not this immediately apparent, that no art or office provides what is beneficial for itself — but as we said long ago it provides and enjoins what is beneficial to its subject, considering the advantage of that, the weaker, and not the advantage the stronger? That was why… I was just now saying that no one of his own will chooses to hold rule and office and take other people’s troubles in hand to straighten them out, but everybody expects pay for that, because he who is to exercise the art rightly never does what is best for himself or enjoins it when he gives commands according to the art, but what is best for the subject. That is the reason, it seems, why pay must be provided for those who are to consent to rule, either in form of money or honor or a penalty if they refuse.” “What do you mean by that, Socrates?” said Glaucon. “The two wages I recognize, but the penalty you speak of and described as a form of wage I don’t understand.” “Then,” said I, “you don’t understand the wages of the best men for the sake of which the finest spirits hold office and rule when they consent to do so. Don’t you know that to be covetous of honor and covetous of money is said to be and is a reproach?” “I do,” he said. “Well, then,” said I, “that is why the good are not willing to rule either for the sake of money or of honor. They do not wish to collect pay openly for their service of rule and be styled hirelings nor to take it by stealth from their office and be called thieves, nor yet for the sake of honor, for they are not covetous of honor. So there must be imposed some compulsion and penalty to constrain them to rule if they are to consent to hold office. That is perhaps why to seek office oneself and not await compulsion is thought disgraceful. But the chief penalty is to be governed by someone worse if a man will not himself hold office and rule. It is from fear of this, as it appears to me, that the better sort hold office when they do, and then they go to it not in the expectation of enjoyment nor as to a good thing, but as to a necessary evil and because they are unable to turn it over to better men than themselves or to their like. For we may venture to say that, if there should be a city of good men only, immunity from office-holding would be as eagerly contended for as office is now, and there it would be made plain that in very truth the true ruler does not naturally seek his own advantage but that of the ruled; so that every man of understanding would rather choose to be benefited by another than to be bothered with benefiting him.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Quotations Mistakenly Attributed to Martin Luther King, Jr.
A Republic, If You Can Keep It
Is the United States a Democracy or Republic?

For further reading: The Republic by Plato (translated by Christopher Ellyn-Jones)
Society and Solitude by Ralph Waldo Emerson
https://www.thoughtco.com/all-about-platos-famous-academy-112520

https://www.iep.utm.edu/academy/
https://www.iep.utm.edu/plato/


21 Epigrams That Can Make You A Better Person

alex atkins bookshelf wisdomAn epigram is a remark that expresses an idea in a clever way; an ingenious thought. Or expressed another way: wisdom in a nutshell. The word is based on the Greek word epigramma, meaning “an inscription (typically on a tomb or monument).” The ancient Greeks were very fond of epigrams. The prominent Stoic philosopher Epictetus observed: “What is the fruit of these teachings? Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated — tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom. We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free.”

Ryan Holiday, originally a marketing director and now a successful author of several bestselling books, has popularized the wisdom of stoicism, particularly in The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living (2016). In an article for Manliness, Holiday reflects on the enduring significance of epigrams: “As long as man has been alive, he has been collecting little sayings about how to live. We find them carved in the rock of the Temple of Apollo and etched as graffiti on the walls of Pompeii. They appear in the plays of Shakespeare, the commonplace book of H. P. Lovecraft, the collected proverbs of Erasmus, and the ceiling beams of Montaigne’s study. Today, they’re recorded on iPhones and in Evernote… And they pack all this in in so few words.” Remarkably, Holiday believes that by following 21 epigrams, which he has collected over the years, can make you a better person — and here’s the rub: if you apply them.

“We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.” (Epictetus)

“The best revenge is not to be like that.” (Marcus Aurelius)

“There is good in everything, if only we look for it.” (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

“Character is fate.” (Heraclitus)

“If you see fraud and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.” (Nicholas Nassim Taleb)

“Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn of him.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

“This is not your responsibility but it is your problem.” — Cheryl Strayed)

“Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.” — Marcus Aurelius)

“You are only entitled to the action, never to its fruits.” (Bhagavad Gita)

“Self-sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth.” (Epicurus)

“Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.” (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

“Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue.” (Zeno)

“Space I can recover. Time, never.” —Napoleon Bonaparte)

“You never know who’s swimming naked until the tide goes out.” (Warren Buffett)

“Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“The world was not big enough for Alexander the Great, but a coffin was.” (Juvenal)

“To improve is to change, so to be perfect is to have changed often.” (Winston Churchill)

“Judge not, lest you be judged.” (Jesus)

“Time and patience are the strongest warriors.” (Leo Tolstoy)

“No one saves us but ourselves / No one can and no one may.” (Buddha)

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of Tom Shadyac
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
The Wisdom of Maya Angelou
The Wisdom of a Grandmother
The Wisdom of the Ancient Greeks

The Wisdom of Lady Grantham
The Wisdom of Morrie Schwartz

The Wisdom of Yoda
The Wisdom of George Carlin
The Wisdom of Saint-Exupery
The Wisdom of Steven Wright
The Wisdom of Spock
The Wisdom of Elie Wiesel

For further reading: https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/21-best-epigrams/


The Wisdom of Supercentenarians

alex atkins bookshelf booksEach year, Americans spend close to $1 billion on over 30,000 different self-help books, seeking guidance to life’s challenges or simply finding inspiration to live the “good life.” But who are the wisest people, the real experts on life? As Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie) and Karl Pillemer (30 Lessons for Living) have discovered, the best persons to ask about persevering through hard times, living a life with fulfillment and without regret, and learning to love authentically are the people who have already done it themselves — what Millenials refer to as “oldies.” Invariably, those who have lived longer have also learned longer — with age comes experience and the wisdom gained from reflecting on that experience.

For truly timeless wisdom, let us turn to a very select group of oldies — supercentenarians: people who are older than 110 years. According to the Gerontology Research Group, as of this writing, there are only 35 supercentenarians alive today: 33 are female, and only 2 are male; their average age is 113 years. Over the years, in various interviews, these remarkable human beings have shared their secret for a good and long life. Basically, if you want to live past 110 years, you have to subscribe to the philosophy of “Don’t worry, he happy.” I know — easier said than done. Here are some of the highlights (name followed by age):

Jeanne Calment (122, died 1997): “If you can’t do anything about it, don’t worry about it.”

Sarah Knauss (119, died 1999): She explained that not letting things upset her was her secret to long life.

Marie-Louise Febronie Meilleur (117, died 1998): “Hard work could never kill a person.”

Violet Brown (117, died 2017): “Hard work; I was a cane farmer. I would do every work I could manage to help myself.”

Emma Morano (117, died 2017): “Being single” and getting to bed early each day.

Maria Capovilla (116, died 2006): Her daughter said, “She always had a very tranquil character and she does not get upset by anything.”

Susannah Muscat Jones (116, died 2016): “I have no secret. I just live with my family. That’s the only thing I can say. My family makes me happy.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: Letters to a Young Poet
The Wisdom of Pi Patel
The Wisdom of Hindsight

The Wisdom of a Grandmother

For further reading: www.businessinsider.com/the-secrets-to-long-life-according-to-the-oldest-people-in-the-world-2016-12
http://www.grg.org/Adams/TableE.html
http://www.dailyinfographic.com/lessons-from-oldest-people-ever-recorded?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+DailyInfographic+%28Daily+Infographic%29


What is the Best Cure for Sadness?

alex atkins bookshelf literatureSadness is an inevitable part of life. It washes up on your shores one day completely unexpected or perhaps as a result of some event in your life. So what do you do? If you turn to the web, you will find thousands of articles on the best ways to deal with or overcome sadness. They trot out the usual suspects: take a walk, go out in nature, listen to music, work, meditate, take a bath, and eat. But why not turn to literature? A great book, is like a childhood friend that has never forgotten you and has not finished sharing its insights. Long after you read it, it whispers to you — in your dreams, in your unconscious — reminding you of its timeless wisdom.

Recently, I was feeling sad, having learned about the serious illness of an old friend. Not only was I aware of his mortality; I was reminded of mine. How quickly time passes — you blink, and you are graduating from high school; then you blink again, you are graduating from college, racing toward adulthood, middle age and beyond. Tempus fugit. So here I was — standing in front of a bookcase in my private library looking for a specific book, when I came across a cherished hardback edition of T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. Just then, in that silent moment awash with contemplation and sadness, it whispered to me, like a siren’s call, “Pick me up; turn my pages, once again, old friend.” Without even thinking, I carefully lifted up the book and noticed a red satin ribbon disappearing into its pages. I opened it up to the page marked by the ribbon, and my eyes drifted right to the passage where Merlyn shares the best cure for sadness:

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlyn, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake in the middle of the night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world around you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

I gently placed the tome back in its place on the shelf, shoulder to shoulder with other great classic works. I smiled on this serendipitous literary remedy. Truly, the greatest insights are in literature — awaiting discovery; or in this case, rediscovery. I spent the next hour browsing, reading and learning. And slowly the sadness melted away, cherishing the memory of the day I rediscovered Merlyn’s wisdom.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts:
The Poem I Turn To
Great Literature Speaks
William Faulkner on the Writer’s Duty
Each Rereading of a Book is Unique Because We Have Changed
What is Your Legacy?
The Poem I Turn To
The Power of Literature

For further reading: The Once and Future King by T. H. White


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